What is Heroin Detox Like? Heroin Detox Withdrawals & Side Effects

Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up Treatment West Palm Beach. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox may be required first. If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.

Heroin is an illegal and highly addictive drug processed from morphine, a natural substance extracted from the seed pod of poppy plants. Addiction to this drug is very dangerous because of its highly addictive quality and the fact that it carries a high risk of overdosing. Moreover, most heroin users will have a hard time escaping from the grips of these drugs, but it is possible, and there is hope. The best chance at recovery is through a heroin detox in a safe and trusted treatment facility.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) [1], the impact of heroin use is felt all across the United States. This means that heroin is being identified as the most or one of the most critical drug use issues affecting several local regions from coast to coast. In addition, some medical complications from chronic heroin use include insomnia, constipation, lung complications, sexual dysfunction.

Heroin overdose is a dangerous and deadly result of heroin use. A large dose of these drugs reduces heart rate and breathing to such an extent that a user cannot survive without medical help. When people addicted to opioids like heroin first quit, they undergo withdrawal symptoms, the process is known as Heroin detox. Medications Assisted Treatment (MAT) from a trusted treatment facility can be helpful in this heroin detox stage to ease craving and other physical symptoms that can often prompt a person to relapse.

Sometimes it actually is too late to ask for help. We Level Up Heroin Detox has saved countless lives.
Heroin Detox: Sometimes it actually is too late to ask for help.

Heroin and Prescription Drugs

Almost half of all opioid deaths in the U.S. now involve a prescription opioid. Often, people assume prescription pain relievers are safer than illegal drugs because they are medically prescribed. However, when these drugs are taken in ways or amounts not intended by a doctor, or taken by someone other than the person for whom they are prescribed, they can result in dangerous health effects. Such results include substance use disorder, overdose, and death, especially when combined with other drugs or alcohol.

In addition, research from NIDA [2] suggests that misuse of these medications may open the door to heroin use. Some also report switching to this drug because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids. Data from 2011 showed that an estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids switch to heroin and about 80 percent of people who used heroin first misused prescription opioids. More recent data suggest that heroin is frequently the first opioid people use.

Possible Health Effects of Heroin Use

Before the Heroin detox process is necessary to know that Heroin is highly addictive. People who regularly use these drugs often develop a tolerance, which means they need higher or more repeated doses to get the desired effects. A substance use disorder (SUD) is when continued use of the drug causes issues, such as health problems and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. SUD can range from mild to severe, the most severe form being addiction.

Short-Term Effects

  • Dry mouth
  • Warm flushing of the skin
  • Heavy feeling in the arms and legs
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe itching
  • Clouded mental functioning
  • Going “on the nod,” a back-and-forth state of being conscious and semiconscious

Long-Term Effects

  • Insomnia
  • Collapsed veins for people who inject the drug
  • Damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it
  • Infection of the heart lining and valves
  • Abscesses (swollen tissue filled with pus)
  • Constipation and stomach cramping
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Lung complications, including pneumonia
  • Mental disorders such as depression and antisocial personality disorder
  • Sexual dysfunction

Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin detox causes and immediate withdrawal, will not be the same for everyone. When someone addicted to heroin stops using, withdrawal symptoms set in. Withdrawal from heroin is often more intense than those prescription painkillers. Symptoms range in severity following the level of dependence and duration of abuse. During withdrawal, the effects are the opposite of the intoxicating effects. For example, instead of euphoria, reduced heart rate, and sedation, the individual may experience low mood, anxiety, and rapid heart rate, among other symptoms.

Mild Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Tearing
  • Runny nose
  • Sweats
  • Chills
  • Yawning a lot
  • Muscle and bone aches

Moderate Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Tremors
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Goose bumps
  • Fatigue

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Muscle spasms
  • Impaired respiration
  • Difficulty feeling pleasure
  • Drug cravings

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Days 1-2

Heroin Detox symptoms may show as soon as 6 hours after the last dose. Pain will begin to occur on the first day, typically muscle pains. These will increase over the first 48 hours. Other symptoms during this period include anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, shaking, and diarrhea.

Days 3-5

By the third or fourth day, withdrawal is in full motion. Symptoms during this time often include abdominal cramping, sweating, shivers, and nausea or vomiting.

Days 6-7

A week is typically the end of what’s known as acute withdrawal from the Heroin detox process. During this time, the common muscle pains and nausea will decrease. Physically, former users will begin to feel more normal though still worn down and tired.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Symptoms of withdrawal may continue inconsistently for months after acute withdrawal. These are caused by the neurological changes from heroin use. Common long-lasting symptoms include anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, and irritability.

Find the best way to recovery through a heroin detox in a safe and trusted treatment facility.

Medically-Assisted Heroin Detox

The heroin detox process may look different for someone who has only used heroin a few times than it would for a person who has used heroin habitually over several weeks, months, or years. The longer and larger the doses an individual uses, the more severe the process will be and the longer it will take to fully detox. In addition to these factors, how the substance was ingested can also play a role in affecting how dependent the brain and body have become on the drug, as well as the overall Heroin detox process.

For some individuals, the detox period is over within 5-7 days. However, more advanced heroin addiction could mean a detox period several days longer. Therapy, counseling, and medical treatment are all parts of a medically assisted detox program. This type of structured and supervised detox program helps create a smoother transition towards recovery and reducing the risk of complications.

We Level FL Mental Health Center: Primary Mental Health Treatment with Secondary Co-Occurring Treatment

We Level Up FL primary mental health center stands ready to help. Offering secondary treatment therapy for underlying problems like Heroin Addiction often fuels negative behaviors. Taking that first step to getting the help you deserve can be life-changing.

We understand how behavioral disorders and secondary co-occurring addiction diagnoses directly impact each other. We Level Up Florida can instill a support system through our mental health treatments that can make you feel valuable. Call us now for a free mental health assessment! 

Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up Treatment West Palm Beach.


[1] [2] NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states